Are We More Than Numbers?
Brace yourself guys, this is going to be a long one. If you have ever struggled with valuing yourself based on appearance or a number on the scale—I encourage you to finish it until the end.
Recently one of our dietitians posted an image that summarizes what a dietitian is thinking during an appointment with a client/patient. The image that was posted and the message that was attached about a dietitian being focused on the “WHOLE you” has really resonated with me. I would be lying if I said I have never stepped on the scale and thought that the number that was revealed had some reflection as to what my value as a person is. When I was younger, I would say that this thought process was what led me to a very insecure place. I think we can all agree that insecurity is not a redeeming quality that one would seek to have. That thought process, along with seeing many clients day in and day out be bound to a number is what leads me to the primary goal of this blog--- to help the reader answer the question of “are we more than numbers”?
Knowing that I am not alone in the numbers battle, I decided to seek out feedback from multiple people to get their take on the question. Below is a list of the answers that I received from people of various backgrounds.
Gosh this is a difficult one for me. I'd have to say yes and that it still does. I have never overcome it. In high school, just to get on the drill team, the "NUMBER" was 119. I had to be at 119 pounds in order to even try out. I had weigh-in every Friday morning and if I had budged more than 1 pound over, I couldn't perform that night. That went on for four years straight…When I married my first husband and got pregnant with our first son, I was put in the hospital for close to six months and gained up to 150 pounds, making me 295 pounds when I got out of the hospital - as I was not allowed to get up out of the bed with the exception to go to the bathroom. I had to eat the prescribed food they gave me at the hospital. I have never shed that weight and that baby boy is 35 today. I was told I was a disappointment and an embarrassment to be around because I was so fat…. I think that numbers are a mind game. Look at the clothing industry. They will "adjust" the sizes for plus-sized women to make them feel better. I know this because I worked in the retail industry for over 25 years for a major department store at their home office and was in several of those marketing meetings that made those decisions. I AM A NUMBER. I am 56 years old. I am 5 foot 4 inches. I have _____% of BMI. I am 267 pounds. I wear 22-24 clothes. To me, weight loss is also a numbers game: 99% mental and 1% physical. My question is how to really become ME and not a number? Concentrate on who I am, where I want to be, what I want to accomplish. I think you've got to do this for you. It is for you. It isn't about anyone else and you are the only one that can do this for yourself. You are the only one who can stifle the negative tapes that play in your mind when they pop up from time to time, making it easy to just quit.
I am fortunate that I am not tied to a number on the scale, but I purposely avoid weighing myself to protect my mind. I’m not afraid to get on the scale, but avoid doing it at any frequency.
Yes, I have valued myself when I step on a scale and see the number hasn’t changed. I felt that I was too lazy. That’s why I didn’t lose weight or I wasn’t trying hard enough and failed. It took a while to realize the number was just a number. I felt that way when I was doing boot camp 3-4 times a week, running, watching my eating, and even competed in the hardest physical competition I have ever gone through. And the number stayed the same. Yes, my body was more muscle but not at all what I thought I should look like in my head. That’s when weighing myself started putting value to the number. It discouraged me. I stopped working out and the number was the same. My body looked different. I had to stop and think to myself. My number hasn’t changed in 6 years. I should be proud of that. I completed things I never thought I could and should be proud of that. And I am in better shape that I was in high school so I got my health! And I was competing with 20 year old’s at the same level and should be proud of the fact I took the challenge! That mindset changed me!
There have been very few times in my life I have gotten on a scale. I don’t want to be tied to a number because I am more than that. If my diet is balanced, I’m active, and my clothes fit—I was just fine! However, after my first kid I felt this sense of self-imposed pressure to be back to my pre-baby weight, or less pretty quickly. I would weigh myself frequently and process how long it would/should take. My body was different after a baby (obviously!). That’s when I realized that weight, body image, and self-acceptance is a slippery slope! I was quickly able to grab a hold of those thoughts and stop being so hard on my body. The second time around-there were no worries. My strong body carried and gave birth to a child. Completely amazing! The scale does nothing more than give a number. It is not a measure of health in any form.
I have definitely felt like the number on the scale has defined me as a person. For several years I used to believe that you had to be a certain number to be considered attractive or to be considered healthy. It wasn’t until this past year that I found out that isn’t always the truth. I changed my diet and started working out and feeling better. The inches were coming off and my BMI was dropping but I had only lost a handful of pounds. That’s when I realized that my health and happiness wasn’t about the number, but about how I looked and felt and the other positive results I was getting.
Yes. When my weight is up I feel guilt because I have “let myself go” or not tried as hard, or like I disrespected myself because of my inattentiveness to my body. I overcome that by honoring my body where it is TODAY, not yesterday or tomorrow. I do this by being grateful that my body does do everything I ask. I can walk, I can run (if I had to get away from sharks or tigers lol, b/c honestly NOT running for any other reason), and I can stretch. I tell myself: I am so grateful for my healthy body. My body is amazing. My body allowed for conception and delivery of 4 perfect human beings! My body will grow big and fat with over feeding and inactivity, but it will also toughen and tighten with discipline, attention, and training.
There are thousands of reasons to lose weight but for me, none of them was ever strong enough to sustain a diet. For years I knew I was overweight, but it wasn’t until I started having health problems that reality finally set in. All of the sudden the number on the scales gave dimension to just how far I had let myself go. I can distinctly remember weighing early in the morning before my wife woke up, just so she would not see my weight. Even then, I stood with my legs pressed together, just in case she walked up behind me, so she could not see the number. My Doctor recommended that I see a dietitian or face weight loss surgery. Dietitian or Surgery, well that’s an easy choice! I met with Lauren, and one of the first things she told me was that we were not going on a diet, we are simply going to modify how we eat the foods we like and make healthy choices. As we worked together the idea of dieting was replaced by concepts of healthy eating habits. The biggest ah-ha moment was when I finally came to the realization that if I changed my habits for my health, then all of those other reasons for wanting to lose weight would happen naturally; the scales then simply became a tool to track my progress and not an indictment of failure.
Interesting question! I’m not sure if I would say I felt the number on the scale was related to my “value” as a person but it definitely has affected me. I feel better when I am at a weight where I look good and my clothes fit well and feel comfortable. That, in turn, helps me feel more confident in myself and influences how I approach my work and personal life. The only time I have been truly overweight (outside appropriate BMI range) was as a child. I was put on a diet by my pediatrician when I was in fifth grade and lost 16 pounds. I think that may have stemmed a continuing weight gain that could have ended up with my becoming significantly overweight. It did not keep me slim though. I probably carried around 10 - 15 pounds more than my “ideal” weight (but not out of BMI range) through my freshman year in college. I lost weight that summer when I started having acne and the dermatologist told me to lay off chocolate, pizza and fried food. (now I’m really dating myself as that not the treatment for acne today!) Just doing that, I lost weight but about 15 lbs. creeped back on over the next year, which I lost over the summer by cutting calories intentionally. This pattern continued my entire adult life: 20 lbs. up, then I’d say I’ve got to get this in check and lose it. Then over ~5 years, it would creep back on and I’d lose it again!
Back to the scale. I would weigh every day while I was losing and after I’d reached my goal. If I gained a pound, I’d tell myself that I’d take it off but I wouldn’t. A few months later I would be another pound heavier with the same pledge and the same result. After a year, it would be 4 - 5 pounds more and then I would quit weighing. After 4 - 5 years, I’d finally get on the scale and I’d be 20 lbs. heavier and then I’d get serious and take it off. Finally, in 2009, I started using the LoseIt! app on my phone. I was already walking 2 miles a day and working out at Curves 2 - 3 days a week. I successfully lost weight down to my goal within 4 months. By tracking my intake and exercise with the app, I have been able to keep the weight off for 8 years, longer than I’d ever done before in my life. And I weigh almost every day. That may not work for some people but it works for me.
Participant # 9
I never really put much stock in my weight. I weighed around 165 most of my life until I torn my meniscus while in the army and they refused to fix it for 2 years. 2 years of no running gifted me another 20 pounds. There I stated at 185 for several years. I got out of the army in 2011 and started my current job. After being in the army for 6 years and exercising when others told me too, I decided that was done. I told myself I was never going to exercise again. Rebelling at such a stupid cause was not my finest decision, but I never claimed to be burdened with an abundance of intellect. So I didn't exercise for a good while. Then, in 2013 I believe it was, I stepped on the scale and for the first time actually felt like I didn't care for what I saw. I had gotten up to 217. That's when I saw my buddy had done a Spartan race or some mud run like event. I started to ask him about it and he said it was a blast. I decided I was going to do a Warrior Dash obstacle mud run to prove to myself I could. I asked my buddy to help me with a workout plan and diet and what not. 6 months of 100 burpees a day and running and better dieting, I not only was able to complete the warrior dash, but also had an absolute addiction to those kick-butt obstacle course runs. Got myself back down to a comfortable 190 and to me, as long I mostly keep it in the 190s I am happy with where I stand on the weight area. So, I guess I do tie my weight to how I feel. One thing is for sure, I absolutely could not have done it without my buddy. …I felt ever so slightly less than when I was more than expected at the seriously increased weight, but mostly just felt the winds of change.
While I would not currently say that my weight is a reflection of who I am by any means – I can tell you that it took longer to learn that it was just a number than I would like to admit. When I have those moments of doubt or insecurity creep in, I am now able to quickly remind myself that everyone is different. Health and the road to achieving good health looks different for everyone. Why do you think there are so many fad diets on the market? There is not a one-size-fits all plan or a specific number that is going to keep me content. It will only be through accepting and reminding myself that at the end of the day the number on the scale does not reflect my personality, my faith or my value in any way.
If you made it to the end of this blog—I hope you take a moment to reflect on your own answer. Doing so may stir up some emotions, but I think that is the beauty of this---it gave people a voice to help others by just being themselves --- right where they are at (numbers and all). It is my hope that by reading this you have been inspired to dig deep and possibly have a new focus – the WHOLE you. I have a feeling this post may resonate in some of you, as well.
To those of you who participated--- your answers gave me a new perspective and I have no doubt that it will reach others, as well. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.